The Roseburg Fire Department and Douglas Fire District No. 2 are using the old Safeway building in downtown Roseburg for two weeks as a training facility.

Firefighters divided into teams of three or four and practiced entering a burning building without the fire. They planned their entrance and tools, set up a ladder, looked for signs of damage, then used specialized chainsaws to cut smoke holes into the roof.

“We’re using operations for ventilating the building during a fire,” Battalion Chief Drew Fairbairn said. “The classroom portion is over safe practices, instruction over good communication skills, key points to hit on communication with people who are on the ground or above the ground.”

The crews are not using smoke or fire on the building for the roof portion which will continue until Thursday in order to get all of the shifts of firefighters. He said they are constantly analyzing the building for safety as they use it.

He said the fire stations have been pretty fortunate with property owners allowing them to use the buildings for training, including the Windmill Inn which was used for about three months last year before it was demolished. It’s a chance for crews to use the skills learned in a classroom during realistic controlled training scenarios.

When they weren’t walking through scenarios, firefighters were watching the training from the ground, checking equipment and gearing up for their turn on the roof.

“It’s something we don’t do a lot of,” Lt. Scott Radmer said. “The thing about our job is you have to be proficient right now, at 2 o’clock in the morning, I mean, all times. We work all the time so when it’s muscle memory, you don’t think about it, you just do it.”

The training will continue through May 1 and will utilize large volumes of water. The building has a demolition permit but there is not a determined demolition date. The building was built in 1963 and has been vacant since 2006.

Janelle Polcyn can be reached at or 541-957-4204. Or follow her on Twitter


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Janelle Polcyn is the business reporter at The News-Review, graduated from the University of Texas, and is a podcast enthusiast.

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